The Reasons Sink . . . (or Jolly!) Will Win Tomorrow’s Special Election

by Jim Geraghty

Tomorrow, voters in Florida’s 13th congressional district head to the polls for a special U.S. House election.

Reasons Democrat Alex Sink Will Win Florida’s Special House Election:

Alex Sink is the bigger name, as a gubernatorial candidate in 2010 who won 47.7 percent of the vote in a year when Republicans did fantastically well across Florida. She’s been elected statewide, as chief financial officer of Florida in 2006 with 53.5 percent of the vote.

Her Republican opponent, David Jolly, has never run for office before. He was counsel to the previous congressman from this district, the late Bill Young, and spent several years as a lobbyist. Some Republicans in Washington have been loudly complaining about the quality of Jolly’s campaign.

Sink’s campaign is raising and spending way more money than Jolly’s campaign.

Obama won this district, 50 percent to 49 percent, in 2012.

SmartPolitics notes that women candidates are twice as likely to win in a special election compared to a regular November election.

There’s a Libertarian candidate, Lucas Overby, polling at 4 to 7 percent, and one poll had him at 12 percent. Experts disagree on whether a Libertarian candidate hurts the GOP or the Democratic candidate more, but as the Tampa Bay Times notes, that support is coming from somewhere: “Less than 1 percent of voters in Pinellas’ Congressional District 13 are registered as Libertarian.”

Reasons Republican David Jolly Will Win Florida’s Special House Election:

It’s a swing district that scores an R+1 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index.

Polling in a special House election is notoriously difficult, but the two most recent polls have Jolly ahead by two percentage points and trailing by three-tenths of one percent.

Republicans closely watching the race from Washington are elated at the early vote numbers:

With more than 119,000 ballots cast early or in the mail, the GOP holds a returned-ballot advantage of 4.06% — thereby reaching the magic number some observers believe the Republicans must be at by Election Day in order for them to win the seat.

According to the latest data — and this data reflects some cancelling out that does not show up in Pinellas Supervisor of Elections’ raw numbers — 48,123 ballots from Republican voters have been returned as of Friday, while Democrats have turned in 43,526. Third-party or NPA voters have cast 21,503 ballots.

At this point, the GOP has increased its returned-ballot advantage by more than two points from a week ago. And it would appear, based on Friday’s returns, that the gap will only continue to increase. Of the approximately 3,200 ballots which were returned on Friday, 53% of them came from Republican voters, with just 29% coming from Democrats.

Outside groups are helping Jolly level the playing field in the television-advertising battle. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce took out a $400,000 TV ad buy supporting Jolly, and then another $400,000 on ads hitting Sink, a pretty sizeable chunk of change.

While neither candidate is raw political charisma personified, Sink may have made the more consequential gaffe when she declared, “Immigration reform is important in our country . . . for obvious reasons, because we have a lot of employers over in the beaches who rely upon workers who, especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping?” Over at Slate, Dave Weigel describes how she’s attempting to hold a nuanced position on Obamacare; in a low-turnout special election, a strong, clear voice of opposition to Obamacare probably breaks through easier than qualified, on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand message.

Senator Rand Paul is making robocalls for Jolly, trying to help him with those Libertarian-minded voters who may feel tempted to vote for Overby.

X Factors: Both campaigns got quieter late last week:

Anyone hoping David Jolly or Alex Sink would be out shaking hands and kissing babies on the last day of the last full week before election day was probably disappointed Friday. The Republican and the Democrat, respectively, kept noticeably low profiles heading into the final weekend before the as-yet unnervingly close race is decided on Tuesday, though the nasty messages flying to and fro between the camps continue uninterrupted.

The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.